Monday, May 21, 2012

Letters from Egypt: The REAL Priority

It’s not upcoming elections. It’s not the president. It’s not parliament. It’s not alleviating poverty. It’s definitely not education.

The priority for many Egyptians is…

*drum roll please*

SOCCER!!!!!!!!!!

And what better way than trying to infuse sports into politics – at least for appearances? It isn’t the first time sports has entered the political arena, and Egypt isn’t novel in its approach. Since I’m a typical American who loves American football, baseball and basketball – I had to do more research when I began writing this article.

Brief Background on Egypt’s Ultras
For those of you who are like me, first you need to understand that Egypt has many soccer teams but the main two are Al Ahly and Zamalak. Both club fans are most often referred to as Ultras (Zamalak is called Ultras White Knights while Ahly is dubbed Ultras Ahlawy), which are considered extreme (Wiki even says “fanatical”) sports fans that are ‘sometimes’ influenced by political and/or religious ideology.

After the revolution, graffiti began popping up throughout major cities. In Alexandria, many murals were created to remember the martyrs. However, the latest designs all depict the country’s Ultras. At first I thought it ridiculous that with everything going on, people seemed so much more concerned with their beloved club. And it isn’t just the youth) who are undoubtedly the artists responsible for the graffiti).

On May 2, demonstrators were attacked by unknown assailants with the death toll around 11-13 people and at least 100 injured. What was the military doing during this time (which is still currently considered the ruling body of Egypt)? Rescuing members of Al Ahly in Mali after a coup d’etat erupted in the country. Egypt’s top soccer team left the Malian capital Bamako on May 3 via military aircraft. So while my pictures my depict drawings and ideologies of the youth in Egypt, obviously it’s also a top priority for the military. Forget the clashes erupting on Egyptian streets that very day, violence in Mali preventing the Al Ahly players from making their way back to Nile country was clearly more important.

But it wasn’t just about soccer as I found out with my research. It was reported that some Ultras groups had formed a new political party to “help in shaping their country’s future.” Ultras Worldwide posted a blog on January 8 that said: “Ultras groups have spearheaded the protests against the military rule…” I didn’t know that, did you? It didn’t appear that so-called Ultras’ members (although the Ultras deny any involvement) weren’t retaliating against the military in Port Said that day after 74 people were killed after a match between Al Masry and Al Ahly.

The same website reported on February 1, “We have been hearing from many people in Egypt that this attack was orchestrated by members of SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) who are trying to harm the Ultras of Al Ahly because of the group’s role in the revolution.” Hmmm, no one I met in Tahrir on January 25, 28 and February 11, 2011 ever said they were a part of the Ultras. I don’t downplay that perhaps the Ultras had some sort of role (you can even recall the role of the New Orleans Saints helping boost morale in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina), but I doubt it was as big as they take credit.

But that’s also like the Muslim Brotherhood. It seems to have escaped everyone’s memory that the MB refused to take part in the initial protests, but now claim they were instrumental in the revolution. And all of this is like famed Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass who claims to have stumbled upon some of the biggest discoveries of Ancient Egypt, although it was really been made in part by the efforts of foreign archeologist. While everyone is busy taking credit for things they didn’t do, start or remotely help evolve, the way forward has been negated.

And just like Hawass who faced corruption charges, the Ultras so-called political party was also said to have been trying to capitalize on the political instability of the country.

From the blog:
After talking to someone who is from Cairo and very up-to-date with the situations there, we have been informed that unfortunately this new political party was formed by people trying to capitalize on the influence that the Ultras have in Egypt. Ultras White Knight has no official role in this political party. Hopefully the Ultras continue their fight for their country and help end all oppressions”.

How many times do I have to repeat that a change in leadership doesn’t mean anything until the people change?

Naturally, Palestine is a focus amid all the other problems Egypt is currently facing...

It’s prevalent throughout Africa to have a government overthrown often, and you have to wonder if Egypt is going to continue on with political instability any time a particular group doesn’t get their way. It isn’t farfetched to imagine that more protests, demonstrations and violence will occur post-election with dissatisfied parties claiming fraud. Is the only way for Egypt to evolve through a dictatorship?

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